While many of us consider ourselves to be “good listeners”, the truth is that many of us do not know how to really listen. The skill of Active Listening can move you and your beloved lightyears forward in your ability to communicate effectively with one another. This series of entries will introduce various tips to improve active listening skills in your relationship.
Tip # 1: It is has been proposed that as much as 60% of our communication takes place non-verbally meaning through body language, and an additional 25% through verbal tone. Paying attention to our body language such as making eye contact, orienting your body towards that person, and physical gestures of love and attunement are critical in letting your partner know that they are being listened to, heard, and understood. Morever, pay attention to the tone you are using as you are speaking, as this can carry even more weight than the words themselves.
Tip #2: One of my favorite communication skills to work with in Couples Counseling is that of Reflective Listening. This tool is so simple yet yields dramatic results. When we listen to our partners speak, even if we truly are understanding what they are saying, we are often thinking about our response as they are speaking. Then when its our turn, we will respond with our carefully crafted perspective which highlights our own feelings.
Next time you and your honey are experiencing a conflict, try this: begin with REFLECTING what you just heard them say. This can be done through simply repeating what you heard them say, or paraphrasing (ie using different words to communicate the same idea.) Then, ask your partner if you heard them correctly. If they did not feel you heard them correctly, ask to clarify what part you could have heard them better, then do another reflection. Once they respond and let you know that you heard them correctly, you can then move on with your stating your own feelings and beliefs.